Okay, so before you start immediately hating or racking your brain so hard, please hear me out. (and note also that I’m writing this from my mobile device)
A couple of months ago, I was helping my sister move. A friend of hers, (ill call him Joe) also came to help. Joe is of course an African-American male and I would guess his age to be anywhere between 21 and 25 years old. He was dressed in very loose (saggy) fitting jeans, a red hoodie with some sort of tribal design on the front and wore a black 59fifty Yankees ball cap (the ones with the flat bill and the big round gold sticker).
When he spoke, he used a lot of slang and terminology that for the most part for the sake of this argument, could probably be considered as ebonics .
Joe was a really nice guy and was a great help to both my sister and I. We got along just great and shared some laughs and treated each other respectfully as any two mature strangers would.
After we finished for the day , we were all taking a break at the kitchen table and as I enjoyed a cup of coffee with my sister and as my sister smoked a cigarette and as Joe smoked a black and mild cigar we began to engage in “normal” conversation. And here is where things get tricky…
Somehow our conversation segued into various things such as government wiretapping, Guantanamo bay, questions about the official 9-11 investigation, weather modification, fluoridated water,autism, RFID chips, and etc.
All in all, it was a very interesting, insightful, thought-provoking and engaging conversation that I enjoyed. But I was also very surprised!
I was surprised because I didn’t expect him to be knowledgeable about many of those things. Had we talked about sports, or music, or told jokes and shared “gossip” I wouldn’t have thought anything was strange.
It wasn’t until a day or two later when I thought back to the situation that I realized the major error that I made. The whole reason why I was surprised about how “well-informed” he was about so many (taboo/conservative/conspiratorial/?) Issues was because I had judged him.
Only at the time, I wasn’t aware of the fact and rather, at the time, I thought I was merely making observations about his looks and personality at that first moment I met him.
Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t find any offense in his outward appearance nor was I bothered by the words and way in which he spoke. I’m a friendly person and I truly believe that I have the ability to get along and find some sort of connection with anybody I encounter.
But when I think even further into the situation I feel worse and worse because had Joe been a white man my age, or an older white woman, or had been wearing something from American eagle or been generally different in appearance in any way, I don’t believe that I would not have had the same sense of “surprise” that I felt that day.
Clearly, I don’t truly believe myself to be racist in any way. Now while I won’t go so far as to say that I have NEVER used derogatory terms or told slanderous jokes, well… that was stupid and I guess I was young and immature at the time. And so, while I may have said those things I don’t sincerely believe that I felt and/or believed those things.
So, while ill end this by saying that I’m NOT racist and that I believe in equal rights for all humans and that I truly love all people and that I don’t believe myself to be above anybody, I still have to wonder: am I just in denial? I hope not!